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Bivy on summit?
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Gregory Petliski
(gregpphoto) - F
Bivy on summit? on 04/01/2011 09:27:54 MDT Print View

I've always wanted to sleep (or try to sleep) on the summit of a mountain, something above the treeline, thinking Washington lol, of course in summer and with a bivy bag. Probably illegal, although if i don't go to sleep than is it actually illegal? Anyway, just wanted your thoughts, am I gonna freeze to death, get blown off the mountain, etc.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Go for it on 04/01/2011 09:43:02 MDT Print View

Thank god i live in Scotland, where i have the right to trek/camp/canoe/bivvy wherever i want to! :)

Seriously, i've had some great nights summit bivvying. Waking up to the sun on your face (usually rain) and looking down at a temperature inversion. Mountain tops all around in a sea of white cloud.

will sawyer
(wjsawyer) - F

Locale: Connecticut
Re: Bivy on summit on 04/01/2011 09:47:43 MDT Print View

Go for it.

Worst that happens? you wake up cold at 3:00AM, eat something, warm up, and start the next day's hike a bit early.

Illegal? not sure, but who do you think is going around at night checking?


Gregory Petliski
(gregpphoto) - F
re on 04/01/2011 09:54:52 MDT Print View

Exactly. Its not like Im gonna have a fire up there! I guess the only things Im concerned about are temperature and lightning. WIth my clothes, bag, and bivy, I should be comfortable to 10 or 15 and survivable much lower than that. Can't imagine mountains in the NE, even big bad washington, dipping below 0 in August. Sure it could happen, but really unlikely. So what about lightning? I would imagine if it were clear as dusk the chances are good that no t-storms will roll in over night.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Bivy on summit? on 04/01/2011 10:12:46 MDT Print View

Summits are great in good weather. They are often not so good in stormy weather. In most wilderness areas, you camp where you want. Others may have restrictions to where you must camp. Follow local regulations. Many summits do not lend themselves to great level spots to sleep. Drop of the top, get up early and enjoy the sunrise with a cup of coffee or similar. Conversely, enjoy the sunsets then drop down to your camp.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Bivy on summit? on 04/01/2011 10:27:46 MDT Print View

maybe you have different mountains in mind than me.
but a summit is not really a place a climber wants to spend the night unless he has to. descents are often tricky, so escape from bad weather can be an issue.

Edited by asandh on 04/06/2011 12:18:59 MDT.

Gregory Petliski
(gregpphoto) - F
RE on 04/01/2011 10:31:57 MDT Print View

@ Art Yea to clarify, I'm talking smaller mountains than in the rockies, picture 4-5,000 ft (and 6,000+ for washington). Any descent would be via regular old hiking trails (and since I routinely turn around while hiking up, I have an idea of the trail going down). But my desire stems from the fact that yes, summits are not where you want to camp. They can be cold and stormy, which is why I want to experience and photograph that magic. True, I'll find a somewhat sheltered nook by a boulder below the true summit, and like I said, I may not even sleep (who can sleep when there's stars out to be gazed upon??), I just want to be there for sunset and sunrise, and to experience the craziness of a summit bivy.

Edited by gregpphoto on 04/01/2011 10:35:54 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: RE on 04/01/2011 10:36:18 MDT Print View

... well if you want to experience craziness, then its summit of Mt Washington in dead of winter :-)

Gregory Petliski
(gregpphoto) - F
RE on 04/01/2011 10:55:15 MDT Print View

@Art: I might be crazy, but I'm not stupid!! When David Breshears tested the IMAX camera he would bring to Everest in '96, he tested it on Mt. Washington lol. I figure summertime shouldnt be too bad. Most of the hypothermia cases in summer are from people not being prepared and/or equipped for the turn of weather. I'll have a waterproof bivy, 35 deg. bag, silk liner, and all my clothes on if need be. Even if I'm chilly that should be more than enough to ward off hypothermia.

Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Bivy on summit on 04/01/2011 11:08:21 MDT Print View

A story about camping on a summit.

Gregory Petliski
(gregpphoto) - F
Re on 04/01/2011 11:13:17 MDT Print View

@Doug: Thats some pretty serious mountaineering! Luckily the mountains Ill be hiking are not so technical. Descending Mt. Marcy lets say is as simple as following the yellow blazes. And even if those were whited out, you could head down towards Lake Tear in the Clouds quite easily.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: RE on 04/01/2011 11:14:05 MDT Print View

I sometimes camp at places like you're talking about in Oregon and Washington

No problem as long as the weather's good

Excellent views, nice star viewing

Usually right at the summit isn't so good because it's windier, but down a little in a more sheltered area is better

Like the pass between South Sister and the other two - 7000 feet

Or Hart Mountain plateau at 7000 feet

Lots of places in Mount Hood, Mount Adams, or Goat Rocks at 6000 or 7000 feet.

Not the summit but way above tree line

I use a hybrid sleeping bag/bivy

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
Re: RE on 04/01/2011 11:16:03 MDT Print View

The summit of Washington is basically a parking lot with a gift shop, weather station and even a post office. You'd easily be able to find a flat sheltered spot to sleep, but I'd choose another mountain because of that. Many of the summits in the Whites have spots big enough for a bivy. What about one of the Bond's or Twins?

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: RE on 04/01/2011 11:26:36 MDT Print View

ahhhh - Mount Washington - nevermind

Gregory Petliski
(gregpphoto) - F
RE on 04/01/2011 11:29:06 MDT Print View

@ Patrick: Ill be sure to avoid the tourist trap! I want to sleep near the top of Mt. Washington for the simple fact that the weather is so notoriously dicey, as well as the fact that its the biggest mountain in the northeast. But maybe Ill do the Bonds in addition to Washington! Im having my Base Camp Manager (read: Dad) send up my bivy for when Im summit sleeping.

Edited by gregpphoto on 04/01/2011 11:29:40 MDT.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Summit bivving on 04/01/2011 11:50:00 MDT Print View

If you ever worry about a summit bivvy, reflect on the bivvy that Dougal Haston (my fellow countryman) and Doug Scott faced in 1975. They were climbing the unclimbed SW face of Everest, and knew if they pushed for the summit, they would be benighted. They still went for it.
This isn't the modern 'tourist route'.
After summiting, they spent the night at 28,750 feet without any tent, sleeping bags, or 'proper' insulating gear. They managed to dig a snow cave/scrape.Despite hallucinations and a wild night, both men made it down the next day without losing any extremities.
It's worth googling for more info on these remarkable men. Doug is still alive and doing good charity work. Unfortunately, Dougal died in his prime in a stupid skiing avalanche.

With a well prepared plan and kit, it isn't anything to worry about.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Bivy on Mt. Washington, NH, weather. on 04/01/2011 12:12:09 MDT Print View

It is not legal and it should not be. There is small area of alpine vegetation in New England and it is very fragile. You should always stay on the trail or on bare rock above treeline in New England and the Adirondacks. If you do this you should sleep on bare rock. The same would be true of some of the smaller mountains further south that have bare rock summits but may not be truly above treeline (Monadnock, Watatic, or the Taconics).

I'd suggest sleeping on the porch of Lake of the Clouds Hut or contacting the Mt. Washington Observatory to see if you can get into one of their programs that would let you stay in the summit building (I imagine that they'd let you sleep on their porch if it was safe and you were enrolled in one of their programs).

You could also stay at AMC or RMC ( and get up really early and run up to the summit (Adams and Jefferson are great).

The weather to be prepared for on Mt. W. in July assuming you're avoiding storms:
Winds gusting to 70 to 80mph, averaging 30 to 50 mph; possible heavy rain; temps in the 40s (F). You could get lucky on weather, but even on a nice day the wind could average 30mph and gust to 50mph. If you're doing photography, at what wind speed does your tripod fall over? Here's the weather archive to see what the weather has been in previous years.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Is the US a police state? on 04/01/2011 12:19:44 MDT Print View

So many rules and regulations.
I'm glad i live in the land of the free.

bryan english
(apoxtle) - F

Locale: so cal.
summit on 04/01/2011 13:00:42 MDT Print View

I've camped on top of san gorgonio mtn on the 4th of july for the last few years with my tarp. it only got really cold and windy once. i get a kick out of crappy weather

Gregory Petliski
(gregpphoto) - F
Re: Bivy on Mt. Washington, NH, weather. on 04/01/2011 17:50:59 MDT Print View

@ Walter: I couldn't agree more in regards to protecting the vegetation. I only step and would only sleep on bare rock. As far as weather and temps, as long as it doesn't blow me straight off the mountain (probably possible on Mt. Washington though huh lol?), I'm ok. I don't shoot with a tripod anymore, too heavy. For this particular journey this summer (ADK, Katahdin, and White Mtns.) I'm using a Holga film camera. I'd rather avoid the huts and anything civilized. Its the woods! I want to be outside in the thick of it. John Muir once climbed a tree during a rainstorm because he wanted to experience what it would be like to be a tree in a rainstorm. I feel that.